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Spotify says it paid $340M to buy Gimlet and Anchor

Spotify doubled down on podcasts last week with a double deal to buy podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor. Those acquisitions were initially undisclosed, but Spotify has quietly confirmed that it spent €300 million, just shy of $340 million, to capture the companies.

That’s according to an SEC filing — hat tip Recode’s Peter Kafka — which deals the transactions which were “primarily in cash,” Spotify said. Kafka previously reported that Spotify paid around $200 million for Gimlet, which, if correct, would mean Anchor fetched the remaining $140 million.

Those numbers represent an impressive return for the investors involved, particularly those who backed the companies at seed stage.

Gimlet raised $28.5 million from investors that included Stripes Group, WPP, Betaworks and Lowercase Capital, according to Crunchbase.

Anchor, meanwhile, raised $14.4 million. Crunchbase data shows its backers included Accel, GV, Homebrew and (again) Betaworks.

Those deals represent a good chunk of change, but Spotify still has more fuel in the tanks.

As we reported last week, it plans to spend a total of up to $500 million this year “on multiple acquisitions” as it seeks to further its position on podcasting which, to date, has been an after-thought to its focus on music. Less these deals, Spotify has around $160 million left in its spending budget for 2019.

In a blog post announcing the deals published last week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted that he didn’t originally release that “audio — not just music — would be the future of Spotify” when he founded the business in 2006.

“This opportunity starts with the next phase of growth in audio — podcasting. There are endless ways to tell stories that serve to entertain, to educate, to challenge, to inspire, or to bring us together and break down cultural barriers. The format is really evolving and while podcasting is still a relatively small business today, I see incredible growth potential for the space and for Spotify in particular,” Ek explained.

Musiio raises $1M to let digital music services use AI for curation

Musiio, a Singapore-based startup that uses AI to help digital music companies with discovery and creation, has pulled in a $1 million seed round.

The capital comes from Singapore’s Wavemaker Partners, U.S. investor Exponential Creativity Ventures and undisclosed angels. The deal represents the first outside round for Musiio, which was founded at the Entrepreneur First program in Singapore where CEO Hazel Savage, a former streaming exec, met CEO Aron Pettersson. It also makes Musiio the first venture capital-backed music AI startup in Southeast Asia and one of the most notable EF graduates from its Asian cohorts.

We first wrote about Musiio last April when it had raised SG$75,000 ($57,000) as part of its involvement in EF, the London-based accelerator that has big ambitions in Asia. Since then, it has increased its team to seven full-time staff.

The company is focused on reducing inefficiencies for music curation using artificial intelligence by augmenting the important work of human curators. In short, it aims to give those without the spending power of Spotify the opportunity to automate or partially automate a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to scouring through music.

“Musiio won’t replace the need to have people listening to music,” Savage told TechCrunch last year. “But we can delete the inefficiencies.”

The Musiio team at its office in Singapore

The company’s first public client is Free Music Archive (FMA), a Creative Commons-like free music site developed by independent U.S. radio station WFMU. Musiio developed a curated playlist which raised the profile of a number of songs that had become ‘lost’ in the catalog. In particular, it helped one track double the number of plays it had received over eight years within just two days.

The FMA deal was really a proof of concept for Musiio, and Savage said that the company is getting close to announcing deals.

“Over the next month or two, there will be two or three commercial announcements,” Savage said this week. “We’re working with streaming companies and sync companies.”

China’s Tencent Music raises $1.1 billion in downsized US IPO

Tencent Music, China’s largest streaming company, has raised $1.1 billion in a U.S. IPO after it priced its shares at $13 a piece ahead of a listing on the Nasdaq.

That makes it one of the largest tech listings of the year, but the pricing is at the bottom end of its $13-$15 range indicating that the much-anticipated IPO has felt the effects of an uncertain market. Indeed, the company is said to have paused the listing process, which it started in early October, for a time so choppy are the waters right now — and that’s not even mentioning a shareholder-led lawsuit that was filed last week.

Still, this listing gives TME — Tencent Music Entertainment, a spin-out of Tencent — an impressive $21.3 billion valuation which is just below the $30 billion that Spotify commanded when it went public earlier this year via an unconventional direct listing. TME was valued at $12 billion at the time of Spotify’s listing in Q1 of this year so this is also a big jump. (Meanwhile, Spotify’s present market cap is around $24 billion.)

The company operates a constellation of music streaming services in China which span orthodox Spotify-style streaming as well as karaoke and live-streaming services. Altogether, TME claims 800 million registered users — although there’s likely a little creative accounting or double counting across apps involved since the Chinese government itself says there are 800 million internet users in the entire country.

Notably, though, TME is profitable. The same can’t be said for Spotify and likely Apple Music — although we don’t have financials for the latter. That’s down to the unique business model that the Chinese firm operates, with subscription and virtual goods a major driver for its businesses, while Tencent’s ubiquitous WeChat messaging app helps it reach users and gain virality.

Tidy though the numbers are, its revenues are dwarfed by those of Spotify, which grossed €1.4 billion ($1.59 billion) in sales in its last quarter. For comparison, TME did RMB 8.6 billion ($1.3 billion) in revenue for the first six months of this year.

TME executives are taking that as a sign that there’s ample scope to grow their business, although it seems unlikely that will ever be as global as Spotify. The two companies might yet collaborate in the future though, since they are both mutual shareholders via a share swap deal that concluded one year ago.

You can read more about TME in our deep dive below.

We also wrote about the lessons Western services like Spotify and Apple Music can learn from TME.

What Spotify can learn from Tencent Music

On Tuesday, Tencent Music Entertainment filed for an IPO in the US that is expected to value it in the $25-30 billion range, on par with Spotify’s IPO in April. The filing highlights just how different its social interaction and digital goods business is from the subscription models of leading music streaming services in Western countries.

That divergence suggests an opportunity for Spotify or one of its rivals to gain a competitive advantage.

Tencent Music is no small player: As the music arm of Chinese digital media giant Tencent, its four apps have several hundred million monthly active users, $1.3 billion in revenue for the first half of 2018, and roughly 75 percent market share in China’s rapidly growing music streaming market. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, however, almost none of its users pay for the service, and those who do are mostly not paying in the form of a streaming subscription.

Its SEC filing shows that 70 percent of revenue is from the 4.2 percent of its overall users who pay to give virtual gifts to other users (and music stars) who sing karaoke or live stream a concert and/or who paid for access to premium tools for karaoke; the other 30 percent is the combination of streaming subscriptions, music downloads, and ad revenue.

At its heart, Tencent Music is an interactive media company. Its business isn’t merely providing music, it’s getting people to engage around music. Given its parent company Tencent has become the leading force in global gaming—with control of League of Legends maker Riot Games and Clash of Clans maker Supercell, plus a 40 percent stake in Fortnite creator Epic Games, and role as the top mobile games publisher in China—its team is well-versed in the dynamics of in-game purchasing.

At first glance, the fact that Tencent Music has a lower subscriber rate than its Western rivals (3.6 percent of users paying for a subscription or digital downloads vs. 46 percent paying for a premium subscription on Spotify) is shocking given it has the key ingredient they each crave: exclusive content. Whereas subscription video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have anchored themselves in exclusive ownership of must-see shows in order to attract subscribers, the music streaming platforms suffer from commodity content. Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Deezer… they all have the same core library of music licensed from the major labels. There’s no reason for any consumer to pay for more than one music streaming subscription in the way they do for video streaming services.

In China, however, Tencent Music has exclusive rights to the most popular Western music from the major labels. The natural strategy to leverage this asset would be to charge a subscription to access it. But the reality is that piracy is still enough of a challenge in China that access to that music isn’t truly “exclusive.” Plus while incomes are rising, there’s extraordinary variance in what price point the population can afford for a music subscription. As a result, Tencent Music can’t rely on a subscription for exclusive content; it sublicenses that content to other Chinese music services as an additional revenue stream instead.

“Online music services in China have experienced intense competition with limited ability to differentiate by content due to the widespread piracy.” Tencent Music, SEC Form F-1

This puts it in a position like that of the Western music streaming services—fighting to differentiate and build a moat against competitors—but unlike them it has successfully done so. By integrating live streams and social functionality as core to the user experience, it’s gaining exclusive content in another form (user-generated content) and the network effects of a social media platform.

Some elements of this are distinct to Tencent’s core market—the broader popularity of karaoke, for instance—but the strategy of gaining competitive advantage through interactive and live content is one Spotify and its rivals would be wise to pursue more aggressively. It is unlikely that the major record labels will agree to any meaningful degree of exclusivity for one of the big streaming services here, and so these platforms need to make unique experiences core to their offering.

Online social activities like singing with friends or singing a karaoke duet with a favorite musician do in fact have a solid base of participants around the world: San Francisco-based startup Smule (backed by Shasta Ventures and Tencent itself) has 50 million monthly active users on its apps for that very purpose. There is a large minority of people who care a lot about singing songs as a social experience, both with friends and strangers.

Spotify and Apple Music have experimented with video, messaging, and social streams (of what friends are listening to). But these have been bonus features and none of them were so integrated into the core product offering as to create serious switching costs that would stop a user from jumping to the other.

The ability to give tips or buy digital goods makes it easier to monetize a platform’s most engaged and enthusiastic users. This is the business model of the mobile gaming sector: A minority percentage of users get emotionally invested enough to pay real money for digital goods that enhance their experience, currency to tip other members of the community, or access to additional gameplay.

As the leading music platform, it is surprising that Spotify hasn’t created a pathway for superfans of music to engage deeper with artists or each other. Spotify makes referrals to buy concert tickets or merchandise —a very traditional sense of what the music fan wants—but hasn’t deepened the online music experience for the segment of its user base that would happily pay more for music-related experiences online (whether in the form of tipping, digital goods, special digital access to live shows, etc.) or for deeper exposure to the process (and people) behind their favorite songs.

Tencent Music has an advantage in creating social music experiences because it is part of the same company that owns the country’s leading social apps and is integrated into them. It has been able to build off the social graph of WeChat and QQ rather than building a siloed social network for music. Even Spotify’s main corporate rivals, Apple Music and Amazon Music, aren’t attached to leading social platforms. (Another competitor, YouTube Music, is tied to YouTube but the video service’s social features are secondary aspects of the product compared to the primary role of social interaction on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp).

Spotify could build out more interactive products itself or could buy social-music startups like Smule, but Tencent Music’s success also suggests the benefits of a deal that’s sometimes speculated about by VCs and music industry observers: a Facebook acquisition of Spotify. As one, the leading social media company and the leading music streaming company could build out more valuable video live streaming, group music sharing, karaoke, and other social interactions around music that tap Facebook’s 2 billion users to use Spotify as their default streaming service and lock existing Spotify subscribers into the service that integrates with their go-to social apps.

Deeper social functionality doesn’t seem to be the path Spotify is prioritizing, though. It has removed several social features over the years and is anchoring itself in professional content distribution (rather than user-generated content creation), becoming the new pipes for professional musicians to put their songs out to the world (and likely aiming to disrupt the role of labels and publishers more than they will publicly admit). To that point, the company’s acquisitions—of startups like Loudr, Mediachain, and Soundtrap—have focused on content analytics, content recommendation, royalty tracking, and tools for professional creators.

This is the same race its more deep-pocketed competitors are running, however, and it doesn’t lock consumers into the platform like the network effects of a social app or the exclusivity of a mobile game do. It recently began opening its platform for musicians to add their songs directly—something Tencent Music has allowed for years—but this seems less like a move to a YouTube or SoundCloud-style user-generated content platform and more like a chess move in the game of eventually displacing labels. Ultimately, though, building out more social interaction around music will be critical to it in escaping the race with Apple Music and the rest by achieving more defensibility.

Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think.

While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform.

That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted.

Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days.

That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets, likes, retweets, comments, etc. He’s also been ordered to delete the offending tweet — more on that below — in order to qualify for a fully functioning account again.

That restoration doesn’t happen immediately, though. Twitter policy states that the read-only sin bin can last for up to seven days “depending on the nature of the violation.” We’re imagining Jones got the full one-week penalty, but we’re waiting on Twitter to confirm that.

The offending tweet in question is a link to a story claiming President “Trump must take action against web censorship.” It looks like the tweet has already been deleted, but not before Twitter judged that it violates its policy on abuse:

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

When you consider the things Infowars and Jones have said or written — 9/11 conspiracies, harassment of Sandy Hook victim families and more — the content in question seems fairly innocuous. Indeed, you could look at President Trump’s tweets and find seemingly more punishable content without much difficulty.

But here we are.

The weirdest part of this Twitter caning is one of the reference points that the company gave to media. These days, it is common for the company to point reporters to specific tweets that it believes encapsulate its position on an issue, or provide additional color in certain situations.

In this case, Twitter pointed us — and presumably other reporters — to this tweet from Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson:

Alex Jones has been suspended by Twitter for 7 days for a video talking about social media censorship. Truly, monumentally, beyond stupid. 😄

On the same day that the Infowars website was brought down by a cyber attack.

Will this madness ever end? pic.twitter.com/hXDzH2b7rT

— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 14, 2018

WTF, Twitter…

Apple has removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes

Apple has followed the lead of Google and Facebook after it removed Infowars, the conspiracy theorist organization helmed by Alex Jones, from its iTunes and podcasts apps.

Unlike Google and Facebook, which removed four Infowars videos on the basis that the content violated its policies, Apple’s action is wider-reaching. The company has withdrawn all episodes of five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its directory of content, leaving just one left, a show called ‘Real News With David Knight.’

The removals were first spotted on Twitter. Later, Apple confirmed it took action on account of the use of hate speech which violates its content guidelines.

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Apple’s action comes after fellow streaming services Spotify and Stitcher removed Infowars on account of its use of hate speech.

Jones has used Infowars, and by association the platforms of these media companies, to broadcast a range of conspiracy theories which have included claims 9/11 was an inside job and alternate theories to the San Bernardino shootings. In the case of another U.S. mass shooting, Sandy Hook, Jones and Infowars’ peddling of false information and hoax theories was so severe that some of the families of the deceased, who have been harassed online and faced death threats, have been forced to move multiple times. A group is suing Jones via a defamation suit.

Spotify bans some Alex Jones episodes, but some say it’s not enough

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Facebook and YouTube hit far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones with minor bans over the last week. Now YouTube has joined the fray. 

The streaming service said it removed some, but not all, of the The Alex Jones Show, citing violations of its hateful content policy.

“We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” a Spotify spokesperson told Recode in a statement.

“Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of ‘The Alex Jones Show’ podcast for violating our hate content policy.” Read more…

More about Politics, Spotify, Infowars, Alex Jones, and Tech

Drake’s ‘Scorpion’ destroyed major Apple Music and Spotify streaming records

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It’s been a big week for Drake. 

First the artist confirmed on multiple tracks off his album Scorpion that he is indeed a father. Now, one day after the new album’s Friday launch, we’ve also learned that Scorpion broke a big streaming record: It earned the most streams on its very first day, on both Spotify and Apple Music. 

Apple Music confirmed the broken record on Instagram, noting that Scorpion was streamed more than 170 million times in its first 24 hours of release. An earlier post also noted that the album had hit #1 in 92 countries. Read more…

More about Entertainment, Music, Spotify, Drake, and Apple Music

Tencent Music, Spotify’s strategic partner in China, is valued at over $12B

 Spotify has finally filed to go public, and in doing so the Swedish company has shed light on another huge music company that has been tipped for IPO — Tencent Music — which is now valued at over $12 billion.
Tencent and Spotify announced a share swap in December that saw each side take an undisclosed slice of the other for strategic purposes going forward. According to… Read More

Spotify is testing a new playlist-based music app that’s a lot like Pandora

 Spotify is testing an app that sees it move firmly into Pandora’s territory.
‘Stations’ is a new Android-only app that is being piloted by the company in Australia — it was first noticed by app analytics firm Sensor Tower on Tuesday.
This app offers a ‘lean-back’ option to listen to music based on genres and managed playlists. In the description, Spotify… Read More

Did Justin Trudeau just Google 'Canada music' to make his summer playlist?

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Justin Trudeau needs your help because he has absolutely no clue what music he should be listening to this summer.

On Saturday morning the Canadian Prime Minister dropped his hot seasonal Spotify playlist on Twitter, featuring some lovely artists like Drake, Shawn Mendes, k.d. lang, The Tragically Hip and holy smokes wait just a minute, these artists are all CANADIAN.

What am I listening to this summer? What should I be? Check out the PM Mix playlist on Spotify: https://t.co/HXZxCVeree pic.twitter.com/zvK7ZJuG99

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 15, 2017 Read more…

More about Music, Conversations, Spotify, Summer, and Canada

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Crunch Report | Apple Rolls Out Early Version Of Its Safe Driving Feature

Crunch Report June 22 Today’s Stories  Do Not Disturb While Driving feature rolls out in Apple’s newest iOS 11 beta Sean Parker has left Spotify’s board; Padmasree Warrior, Thomas Staggs join in lead up to IPO Trump might kill next month’s new startup visa before it takes effect Facebook is testing a feature to prevent profile pictures being abused by other users Tantan, China’s… Read More

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Kendrick Lamar dropped his new album on Apple Music and everyone on Spotify is having a nervous breakdown

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Kendrick Lamar dropped his new album DAMN. late Thursday night on Apple Music and fans are rejoicing … except for Spotify users.

Patiently waiting for this Kendrick to drop on Spotify pic.twitter.com/UybNOr65NE

— Alex Carras (@LEGENDofWAFFLE) April 14, 2017

Waiting for Kendrick’s new album to hit @Spotifypic.twitter.com/CDLOsPves6

— kung fu kenny (@Kenny_Velez) April 14, 2017

Team Spotify patiently waiting for Kendrick like..pic.twitter.com/Ip7qpNqkOW

— k y k y (@DjKhyled) April 14, 2017

all the apple music people are swimming in the new kendrick and all the spotify people are patiently waiting for the album to go up like pic.twitter.com/XzM8jJhsmF

— carter (@phebreze) April 14, 2017 Read more…

More about Apple Music, Spotify, Kendrick Lamar, and Entertainment

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Crunch Report | YouTube now blocking ads on low-view channels

YouTube is now blocking ads on channels with less than 10,000 views, Amazon pulls Diapers.com and other Quidsi apps and Spotify’s invisible IPO. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Spotify reaches 50 million paying users

spotify black history month Thank you to our 50 million subscribers. #Spotify50 pic.twitter.com/eXkOV71bwu — Spotify (@Spotify) March 2, 2017 Spotify has reached a new milestone after it crossed 50 million paying users. The service is currently available in over 60 markets, with a total catalog of more than 30 million songs on off. The streaming firm clocked 40 million ‘Premium’ subscribers in… Read More

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'India's Spotify' launches artist originals to take on Apple Music

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The audio and music streaming landscape in India is heating up. Slowly yet surely. 

Saavn, termed “India’s Spotify” by Billboard, just rolled out its Artist Originals (AO) program that will conceptualize, produce and distribute new music with independent artists from India and South Asia. 

The AO program boosts Saavn’s original programming such as podcasts and audio shows. It’s touted as giving creative opportunities to India’s underground artists, and it aligns with the founder’s vision of moving away from “a music-only product to an entertainment platform.”  Read more…

More about Podcasts, Indie Music, Music Artist, Spotify, and Apple Music

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'India's Spotify' launches artist originals to take on Apple Music

TwitterFacebook

The audio and music streaming landscape in India is heating up. Slowly yet surely. 

Saavn, termed “India’s Spotify” by Billboard, just rolled out its Artist Originals (AO) program that will conceptualize, produce and distribute new music with independent artists from India and South Asia. 

The AO program boosts Saavn’s original programming such as podcasts and audio shows. It’s touted as giving creative opportunities to India’s underground artists, and it aligns with the founder’s vision of moving away from “a music-only product to an entertainment platform.”  Read more…

More about Podcasts, Indie Music, Music Artist, Spotify, and Apple Music

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SoundCloud revamps its subscription service with cheaper $4.99 option

soundcloud-money SoundCloud has rebooted its paid membership plan with a new budget option less than a year after it was first launched. The Swedish company today revealed a cheaper tier of $4.99 per month, down from the initial $9.99 subscription that it rolled out last March, in a bid to make its plans more appealing to users. The company isn’t abandoning that higher pricing, though, and it will… Read More

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Dubset raises $4M to legalize remixes for Spotify and Apple Music

dubset Record labels refuse to allow streaming of remixes and hour-long DJ sets unless copyright owners get paid for every little sample. Dubset just raised $4 million to handle that legal mess so Spotify and Apple Music can offer the type of music that used to live illegally on SoundCloud. Read More

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Crunch Report: Prince returns to Spotify

cr-thumb-2-10 Today’s Stories 

Prince returns to Spotify and Napster this weekend
WhatsApp now supports two-step authentication
Amazon’s Tap speaker gets a hands-free update in defiance of its name
Beats X bring Apple’s wireless headphone tech to a tethered form factor

Credits
Written and hosted by: Anthony Ha
Edited by: Joe Zolnoski
Filmed by: Matthew Mauro
Teleprompter: Tomas… Read More

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Spotify, Netflix, LINE, Pandora & HBO NOW top the list of 2016’s biggest apps by revenue

2016-top-apps-hero According to a new year-end report from Sensor Tower detailing the top apps of 2016, streaming services dominated when it came to which apps, outside of games, pulled in the most revenue over the past year. At the top of the list is Spotify, which not only scored the number one spot on the iTunes App Store, but also was the number one revenue earner across both platforms, including both… Read More

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